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Andrew Surritt, Jr.

Other Burglary Exonerations
On February 26, 1992, a Fayette County, Ohio grand jury indicted 29-year-old Andrew Surritt Jr. on charges of theft and breaking and entering.

The charges involved a dispute between Surritt, a building contractor, and Larry Reese, who had agreed to pay Surritt $25,000 to build a home in Fayette County.

Reese became upset that Surritt was behind schedule and slightly over budget on the project, so he had new locks installed on the home.

However, Surritt broke into house and removed items that he had purchased, but had not yet installed.

In August 1992, Surritt went to trial in Fayette County Court of Common Pleas. Reese testified that modifications and changes had boosted the cost to more than $26,000, and that disagreements had arisen over Surritt’s work. By that time, Reese had paid Surritt about $21,000 for work already performed, and for fixtures and other items that Surritt had purchased and were on the job site, but were not yet installed.

Reese admitted that while he had new locks installed, he had not told Surritt he was doing so and that he never provided keys to Surritt for the new locks. Reese also did not inform Surritt that he was not to enter the premises.

At the close of the prosecution’s case, Surritt’s attorney asked the trial judge to enter a judgment of acquittal. The judge denied the motion, and on August 29, 1992, the jury convicted Surritt of breaking and entering and theft. He was sentenced to one year and six months in prison.

On May 3, 1993, Surritt was released from prison on parole. A week later, on May 10, 1993, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed his conviction and ordered the case dismissed.

The court held that the crime of breaking and entering could not be committed unless there was a criminal trespass upon the property. Surritt, the court said, was “entitled to enter and be present upon the Reese building site…and, despite Reese’s action in changing the locks, had received no notification that he no longer had permission to enter the property. Clearly, there was no trespass.”

The appeals court also overturned the theft conviction. “The evidence shows that the items taken were fixtures and other construction materials (Surritt) had paid for but had yet to install at the Reese building site,” the court said. “Under these circumstances, (Surritt), not Reese, was the owner of the property in question, and (Surritt) was not required to obtain the consent of Reese or any other party before removing these items.”

Following the dismissal of the case, Surritt filed a lawsuit seeking to be declared a wrongly convicted person. In 1996, after he was judicially declared wrongly convicted, the state of Ohio awarded Surritt $32,500 in compensation.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/10/2018
Most Serious Crime:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Additional Convictions:Theft
Reported Crime Date:1992
Sentence:1 year and 6 months
Age at the date of reported crime:29
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No